For the last couple of years, the volume has increased over concerns related to parental rights, especially at public schools. What focused for a time as concerns over in-person education and the use of masks during the pandemic has quickly returned to concerns over matters of sexuality and gender. In the wake of these concerns, Florida and Alabama have passed bills limiting discussions of gender identity and sexuality in classrooms with young children. At the same time, some school districts appear to be attempting to hide possible gender identity transitions from parents.
What are we to do as Christians, and especially Christian parents, as we navigate the world of parental rights in a pro-LGBTQ culture? How do we speak truth into the school systems in our communities and effect change where it is needed?
Let’s begin with a few affirmations.
Affirmations about God’s design for sexuality
God created humans male and female. Genesis 1:26-27 functions as God’s opening statement regarding anthropology. While the focus is often (rightly) placed on the fact that humans are made in God’s image, the second statement of that passage is sometimes overlooked. At the end of v. 27 we read, “He created them male and female.” These words in the opening chapter of the Bible are now considered controversial, but they are not unclear. In an age where distinctions between male and female are blurred, we find the clear testimony of Scripture to be that God created male and female as distinct expressions of humanity.
God created males and females as complementary in nature. Complementarity between males and females is a multifaceted concept, but I want to focus on just one aspect here: sexual complementarity. God designed male and female to be a complementary pair sexually. This idea first appears in Scripture in Genesis 1:28 where we read, “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth. . . .’” With this pronouncement following on the heels of the declaration that God created humans as male and female, we rightly surmise that the process through which mankind would be fruitful and multiply was the sexual relationship that God designed to take place between a man and a woman in the context of marriage (see Genesis 2).
God created the human body as part of his good creation. On five different occasions in Genesis 1, we see that God declared his creation to be good, culminating with the words in verse 31, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed.” As part of the discussion revolving around gender identity, we sometimes hear the discussion turn to demeaning the body and elevating the mind so that the body must be changed. But we cannot forget that the physical body is part of God’s good creation.
With these theological affirmations in place, how do we engage our schools on matters of sexuality and protect parental rights in the process?
How to equip your children and engage with your school
Teach your children the truth of God’s Word on matters of sexuality. Conversations with our children about sexuality can be awkward – let’s just admit it. But we can’t allow the awkwardness of the conversation to prevent us from having them. We have found, especially with our older children, that they are confronted with unbiblical models of gender and sexuality on a regular basis at school. Thus, it is crucial that they have been taught a biblical model and home and church. We need to teach them how to engage in conversations at school so they can speak knowledgeably and are able to communicate with their parents when something different is being taught or promoted at school.
Be an involved parent. We cannot clamor for protecting parental rights in the schools if we are not involved in the life of the school. Volunteer in the classroom. Serve on a committee. Provide support for teachers and staff. Go to school board meetings. By getting involved, we build relationships. Most changes that we want to see come to fruition are best accomplished on the basis of a relationship with a teacher, principal, or school board member. If we are not involved, we will generally not be heard.
Vote in local elections. We tend to get excited about national elections with potentially far-reaching ramifications, but most of the politics that affect our daily lives happen on the local level. High-profile school board elections in districts that have already experienced controversy make the national news, but the controversial policies enacted in those districts most likely came as a result of years of inattention to local politics by the average citizen. We need to get out and vote in these local elections, and some of us may even need to run for office.
Promote biblical convictions for sexuality and gender. The biblical vision for gender and sexuality – gender identity that corresponds to biological sex and sexual expression through the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman – was not controversial just 15-20 years ago. The culture is not so far gone that we cannot restore this vision through faithful teaching and living. Our promotion of biblical convictions begins in our homes and then extends into our communities.
Protecting parental rights in a pro-LGBTQ culture begins by exercising those rights. When the world says our vision for sexuality and gender is out of date or harmful, we demonstrate it through our lives and proclaim it unashamedly.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evan Lenow serves as director of church and minister relations and associate professor of Christian studies at Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss. He is also the director of the Clinton Extension Center for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)